Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How much water do you need?

On Monday I taped a segment with Dr Max Gomez, from CBS, on water. Two Foodtrainers’ clients participated. One is a triathlete who talked about nutrition for performance. The other a lawyer and frequent traveler talked about changes she’s seen from improved hydration. Dr Max’s first, semi-leading question for me was “isn’t it simple, don’t we just drink when we’re thirsty”? It would’ve been a very short interview if I said “yes” but I didn’t. It’s not that simple and when we’re thirsty we’re already mildly dehydrated.  Whether you’re prone to crankiness or looking to lose a few pounds (or both) here are some hydration questions and answers I often hear.

Do we really need 8 glasses of water a day?
We do not; we actually need more than that. The National Academy of Sciences determined women are generally adequately hydrated after consuming 2.7 liters and men 3.7 liters of total water a day. Total water includes water from food and beverages. If you remove water from food it’s still a little over 2 liters (8 cups) for women and over 3 liters (12 cups) for men…if you are sedentary (workout water not included).

The silver lining? The Nat. Academy report concluded that caffeinated beverages can count. The diuretic effect of caffeine is transient. Score one for coffee.
*Drink 70-100 ounces of water, seltzer, herbal water, herbal tea or hint water. 8-16 ounces of your water can be caffeinated.

Can hydration help me lose weight?
A few studies, in the journal Nature and others, have found that drinking water (2 cups) before a meal reduced the number of calories consumed at that meal (75 fewer calories).  Another study found increased metabolic rate after participants consumed an additional 6 cups of water a day.  This study, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, reported that the increase in metabolism was based on additional energy needed to warm the water to the body’s temperature. Finally, we often mistake hunger for thirst and can eat when a glass of water would suffice. Rethinking our water intake and timing can in fact help your weight (and certainly can’t hurt).

How do you know if you are dehydrated?
For the warning signs for dehydration there are three D’s and two C’s:

Dark Urine- monitoring your urine is the best way to assess your hydration. Urine should be pale, like pale lemonade, and plentiful.  It should not look like concentrated chicken broth; if it’s dark yellow drink a couple cups of water.

Dizziness- if you’re at your desk and stand and feel a little woozy you may be dehydrated. Perhaps you had a few too many the night before or simply had been working and not hydrating, either way see it as a sign.

Dry Skin- dry environments such as offices or airplanes can take a toll of your skin. Dry lips, dry mouth and circles under your eyes can tell you about your hydration.

Constipation- when liquid is decreased stool frequency and volume decreases along with it. You body needs water from your intestines to pass stool. With insufficient water stool is hard, dry and difficult to pass.

Crankiness- the second “C” is for cranky. It may not be your job that’s making you stressed; it may be your water or realistically a combination of the 2.  If you are chronically dehydrated you may not realize the effect insufficient water has on your mood.
Despite the fact that I talk about hydration every day, there were a few tidbits I hadn’t heard and hopefully some that were new to you as well.
Are you a good hydrator or do you have any of the warning signs of dehydration? How much water would you say you drink in a day? Any tips for increasing your intake?


  1. I love the way I feel after gulping down a gigantic glass of water - especially around 4pm, I swear it can be better than coffee. The one thing I have noticed (in myself) is that ever since we discovered the BPA thing, I have been drinking a lot less water! Why? I never have a bottle on me! Now this reasoning is silly - I can't keep a water bottle in my possession for more than a day, two tops, because I am a perpetual looser of things (keys, phones, umbrellas and water bottles). Owning a Klean Kanteen or Sigg water bottle was great while it lasted. But after loosing my 3rd (whole foods) stainless steel container, I gave up on the fancy bottles. Now I am back on plastic because the only way I can ensure drinking enough. And losing a 2$ bottle (after drinking it gone) is nowhere near as painful as loosing a $20+ bottle, that is half full.

  2. Staying hydrated is also a really good impetus for including more fruits and veggies in the diet. An orange or some cucumber slices are a lot more hydrating than a granola bar as a snack! Good reminder for people trying to lose weight and focus more on whole foods.

  3. Totally Justine, we get a good amount of hydration from fruits/vegetables (melons, tomatoes other food ones) and water-based foods like soups/smoothies. Processed foods tend to parch us as many are salty, blech.

  4. Cameo- interesting that using less plastic has hurt hydration. On the go I will do a pellegrino or coconut water as the packaging is more up my alley.

  5. My most telltale sign of dehydration is headaches. I know that I am completely dehydrated when I start to get a compression headache that feels like my head is being squeezed by a vice.

    I also know that I'm dehydrated when I start to crave "juicy" foods or foods with a lot of water content like grapes or cucumber

  6. I work with an amazing chef who is also trained in natural medicine. One evening I was craving mashed potatoes and gravy and macaroni and cheese, and he told me I'm probably dehydrated. Craving greasy, salty, easy-to-chew foods... I guess it made sense. Salt does help you retain water. I have since tried to drink more liquids. I usually try and carry a metal water bottle around with me and avoid single-serving package drinks.

  7. Headaches, dry lips, and (in really bad situations) nose bleeds are the physical ways I know I'm dehydrated. Crankiness is another sign. But I try hard to not get dehydrated ever because I'm prone to bladder and kidney infections and drinking lots of water helps keep that under control. I have a big siggi water bottle that I fill for my morning commute and at least 2 more times during the day. We have only water and green tea in the house, so that helps, too.

    Does green tea count towards my water intake? I drink a ton of that, too.

    Random aside -- the SodaStream sparkling water makers are on sale at W-S, including the penguin w/ the glass bottles. Having that really helped my husband up his water intake and cut out soda entirely.

  8. For some reason, water is often overlooked with a lot of my patients. I always try to encourage them to drink water first when they might feel hungry.
    Although I try, I know I don't always drink enough either. I bought a filtered water bottle so I can fill it up at work. That has definitely helped.

  9. Hydration is one thing I've never had a problem with. I drink a ton of water every day. I used to drink mostly carbonation, but I gave that up a few months ago. I've noticed since drinking mostly water I feel so much better.

    I have a re-usable bottle I use. I also put myself on a semi-drinking schedule. I try to drink a certain amount by a certain time.

  10. I keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge and add a splash when I go for the brita. Sometimes i think the lemon may make me drink twice as much water since I usually refill the glass with the diluted lemon flavor. EBoost is another great way to get a couple extra glasses of water in a day as one tablet/packet can flavor a few refills

  11. This is such an important topic and Im so glad you touched upon it. I actually have a waterbottle that is 1L and I try to drink at least 4 of them a day. Plus I have some yummy teas that I really enjoy so that adds to my water consumption as well. I dont have any tricks I just chug!=) I know that when I do my body feel cleaner and I feel like everything is cleansed. It might be all in my head but it works!

  12. I always have good intentions to drink enough water but I never quite make it.

  13. I agree with you Chrysta, sometimes you have to force it but feels better when you do. Ayala, don't give up give yourself some cues- 1 liter water by lunch etc and see how you do. Thanks Rebecca.

  14. Great post. I posted it on my Facebook page. I get a lot of questions about how much water/fluid is sufficient. I have always known coffee counted toward my intake, and I'm happy to hear it repeated here because I tell everyone this!!

  15. That is a relief that Coffee in moderation counts towards hydration. Oddly enough in the winter time i am more prone to dehydration. I know it's because I am a little more sedentary and drink more tea/coffee than water. I always equate hydration with working. The soda stream machine has greatly changed the water consumption in our house. We have been carbonating hibiscus tea from rishi. Delicious. Also, for a great BPA free water bottle that's good on the go and while working out i use the intak from thermos. It's great because it locks. so at work i know im not going to spill it all over my work space. I like them so much i bought them for all of my cooks.
    Great post!

  16. Gina- you're more in the know that I am I didn't count or let clients count caffeine toward water needs (love learning I'm wrong). Alissa- carbonating hibiscus tea, I am so intrigued. Thanks for the comments.

  17. I totally get cranky when I'm dehydrated. I normally drink so much tea (usually herbal) during the day that it's not a problem...but if I'm ever away from a kitchen/tea shop for an extended period of time, I get a headache, which makes me cranky. I think hot/warm water works best for me, because this happens even if I bring a canteen of cold water along with me.

  18. I get really tingly when i'm dehydrated. My harms start to hurt. its so odd -- but it's my cue I goofed up! Thank goodness it isnt often!!

    must. stay. hydrated! <3

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  19. Living in such a dry climate (Phoenix) forces us to drink LOTS of water. My kids are great water drinkers too.